By María V. Acevedo, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
For centuries, muralists from around the world have made art public and accessible for the people. From cavern painting during the Upper Paleolithic times to contemporary graffiti in the streets of Santurce, Puerto Rico, murals have made children, youth and adults stop, notice, think and even act. This post explores the power of murals and muralists in Latinx picturebooks.
Murals can be found on walls, ceilings or other permanent surfaces. Sometimes the piece of art is painted to the surface, while other times, the artwork is applied directly to it. One of the most intriguing features of a mural is that it incorporates the architectural elements of the designated space creating a sense of belonging and harmony. As artwork, murals capture and represent the past, present, and at times, the future of their cultural communities. They can serve as political propaganda, as well as social emancipation. They also attract people to social issues and beauty.
The following Latinx picturebooks celebrate the life of important Mexican and Latinx muralists and provide new venues for some of these artists to expand their artwork. These books can support art explorations grounded in community engagement.
Murals to imagine
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, by Duncan Tonatiuh (2011) portrays the life of the world-wide known Mexican muralist. The story describes the artist’s diverse artistic influences while walking the reader through some of his most famous creations. Then, a journey of imagining possibilities begins: “Would he [Diego Rivera] paint the big city… as he painted the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán?” How will we continue and build upon his legacy?
We encourage you to learn more about Diego Rivera and the mural and others
Murals to transform
Maybe Something Beautiful, by Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López (2016) invites readers to come together and use paint and brushes to change gray cities into joyful spaces. This narrative is based on the true story of how Rafael López and his wife Candice López transformed the East Village near San Diego, San Francisco, through a community project called Urban Art Trail.
Learn more about Rafael López and the mural.
Murals to heal
Luis paints the World, by Terry Farish, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (2016) is about a child, Luis, who lives with his older brother Nico and his Mami in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When Nico is deported to military duties, Luis starts to paint murals to cope with his brother’s absence and a fear for the unknown: “What if Nico goes far away and he doesn’t come back?” The murals allow Luis to remember Nico, to talk to him and to share their home, community and brotherhood with the world.
Murals to dance
Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/Sofi y el mágico mural musical, by Raquel Ortiz, illustrated by Maria Dominguez (2015) explores the role of murals to encourage cultural pride by making visible communities that have been historically marginalized. It is also a story that describes the power of murals to elicit multimodal responses, such as singing and dancing. The Puerto Rican vejigante on the mural looks so real that Sofi can hear it singing: “Toto-toco, toco-toco, Vejigante come coco”. It is so real that it carries Sofi to the Island and back! The story is inspired by the work of Maria Dominguez, particularly the mural “El pueblo cantor” in South Bronx, which she created with students from the Intermediate School 193 (author’s note).
Learn more about this mural and Maria Dominguez.
Murals to circle back
All Around Us, by Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana Garcia (2017) takes the reader through a life journey in which “even our bodies return to the earth”. The narrative offers an opportunity to reflect upon the responsibilities that we, as individuals, have to our families, communities, and world… because “we have new life with you”. Like Rafael López and Maria Dominguez, Adriana Garcia is also a muralist. Her work in San Antonio, TX and other cities are invitations to connect to personal and collective roots, and a call to remember and share your self-worth.
Learn more about this mural and others by Adriana Garcia
Which murals make you stop, notice and wonder?
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